A Cautionary Tale

After 23 years as a camp counselor, I am sad to say that this camp is no longer a camp I can recommend with a clear conscience to any parents thinking of sending their kids to a Bible camp. To me, it is now a Bible camp in name only. The camp has been in decline since 1999 when the Director's husband went to be with the Lord. In my opinion, the Field Director and Director have become spiritually questionable and their influence guides the decisions that will affect your children.

I will take the time to post camps which have been recommended to me as being spiritually solid but as for now, I would caution you against sending your kids to the camp. I suspect the name of the camp will be changed and a new website will be created so this is directed to those of you who know what camp I'm talking about.

Even though I paid for this site and have done all of the work to create and maintain it for the past seven years, the decision to use it in order to voice my concerns was not an easy one. In fact, it was the last resort. Leading up to this decision, it was crucial to me that I attempt to reach out to the parties directly. That is why I discussed the various matters presented here with the Director and Field Director over the years. None of what I am sharing has not already been brought to their attention. I also attempted to speak with the CEO of the organization which runs the camp and which employs the Director and Field Director. All of these attempts were met with repeated rejections. So then I had to weigh the pros and cons of doing nothing. In Matthew, Jesus instructs the disciples not to present children with obstacles that would hinder them from meeting Him.

Matthew 19:13-15 New King James Version (NKJV)
13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.

Having a camp where the Gospel is treated with indifference or in some cases contempt constitutes harmful lessons for the kids because they are a blank slate. They will look to the camp staff for cues on what is important and what is not. I decided that I could not sit by and watch parents send their kids without at least warning them as to how the camp is run and what methods are employed by the camp leadership.

I know that the Director's late husband was truly a laborer in God's harvest. He was one of the godliest men I have ever known and he showed me the ropes of camp in my first summer as a Christian. To this day, I have never witnessed anyone who cared more deeply for the salvation of young people as him. He was a constant encouragement in how he directed the camps. He and I were close and would always manage to play music together for the kids. Anything good that I ever learned about camp came from him. I could never say enough good about him.

One of the things that he used to do that his wife did not do regularly was to qualify the staff as to their walk with God. Every year I would be asked to sign the statement of beliefs in order to ensure that my beliefs had not changed. It also asked whether you were involved in anything immoral and I appreciated that kind of scrutiny. He would take the time to interview staff because they were going to be working with the kids and so it was paramount that their lives and motivations reflect Christ.

Almost immediately after his passing, camp started to change and not for the better. I don't attribute this to the passing of the Director's husband. In fact, it must have been very difficult for the Director to carry on in the absence of her husband. Unfortunately for the kids though, it started to become commonplace to have staff unable to explain the Gospel to them. I remember the Camp Speaker and I witnessing to one of these new recruits because he clearly had never heard the Gospel. While I was thrilled to have a chance to share Christ with another soul, it was surreal because this was supposed to be a counselor. I believe you can't give what you don't have. In this case, a counselor without Christ was not equipped to share the Gospel because he had not believed it himself. Many of the new counselors did not know one end of the Bible from the other but were there to make sure the kids had a good time. That was the new goal of many of the staff.

That goal remained year after year. The problem is that when you change your mission from one of reaching kids for Christ to organizing a good time, you draw attention away from Christ and put it onto other things. Camp is a short amount of time anyway and to make it all about having a good time instead of telling kids about Jesus is a gigantic missed opportunity.

When I first arrived at camp as a counselor in 1990, I was a new believer myself and had never gone to a Bible camp. Back then, I didn't know as much Bible but I knew Jesus. I was so impressed that the staff were all very willing to show God's love and to not just talk at the kids but to talk with them. They demonstrated enormous spiritual maturity. The Gospel could be heard clearly and often. In those days, you not only heard about God's love but you could really sense it while at camp. I really think that's what brought kids back year after year. It was not uncommon in those early years to hear about kids who had attended larger camps finding more fulfillment at our camp. Those were the days when you could safely send your child to camp with the knowledge that they were in good hands. Those were also the times when you heard kids rejoice that they met Jesus at camp. The final night of camp was something to look forward to because it was the campfire service and one kid after the next would stand up and talk about how Jesus had changed their lives. For some it was a chance to share that they had just put their trust in Christ and for others, it was a chance to rededicate themselves to living for the Lord.

I wish that were still the case but it is not. I can't think of a single testimony that I've heard out of the camp in many years. There was one year that served as an exception when a different Camp Speaker came through but the Director didn't like him, so he was only there the one year. Nowadays, on the final night of camp during the campfire service, kids mainly talk about meeting friends and getting out of the house. There's no real sense that they have been impacted for Christ at all.

You must make your own decisions and believe who you will believe but I can speak as one who has been at camp for 23 years. I have watched the steady decline occur and felt the hostility grow towards God's word and Christians in general. I'm not at all saying there are no Christians left at camp but I would say they are much harder to find. There is concern for political correctness, and some staff members have stated in conversation that Christ should not be considered the only way to Heaven but one of many ways. Others have spoken favorably about gay marriage and abortion. Not all of the staff do this but various ones from time to time. While I would never indict someone for having a different opinion than me, you have to keep in mind that this is called a Bible camp and these have been the staff saying these things - not in an official time of teaching but camp is loaded with unofficial teachable moments. Those unofficial moments are I think more valued by the kids than the official ones.

Another aspect I would mention is that not only did the Director stop checking testimonies and beliefs but she also stopped performing background checks. That was supposed to be a way to safeguard the campers. The Camp Nurse and I both volunteered for one but I am not aware of anyone else ever going through that. In this day and age, it only makes sense that you want to inspect the legal background of anyone who is going to work with children so I suspect it's only a matter of time before an individual slips into camp who will do harm.

I've spoken with the CEO of the organization where the Field Director and Director are affiliated. He expressed an utter lack of concern for the dire state of the camp and the role his own workers have played in making it that way. I would urge caution before giving to this organization. If the CEO has no problems with the behavior of his subordinates, then I believe his credibility is compromised.

For some time, I believe there was an effort on the part of the Director and Field Director to find a pretext to get rid of me as a counselor. The Field Director finally sent me an e-mail telling me that I had been unhappy at the camp for four years, which traced back to the time I had confronted him and the Director on a matter of sexual immorality in the camp staff. While I was never unhappy with the camp or the camp staff, I was unhappy with the camp leadership.

The Field Director was talking about an occasion when the Director had invited a woman to counsel at camp who was living with her boyfriend. The Director was fully aware of the situation and invited her to counsel anyway. While at camp, the woman in question was teaching the girls on matters of dating. She had been at the camp several years before and even had a Bible school background but that year was the first anyone knew she was living with a man. When I asked the Director about her knowledge of the situation, she claimed she was absolutely unaware of it, but less than five minutes later, the Camp Speaker and I had a conversation in which he said that not only did the Director know about the woman's situation, contrary to what she had told me, but she had invited her to counsel in spite of it.

Nevertheless, at the camp meeting in the fall of that year, I waited until after everyone had left to discuss this matter with the Director and Field Director. My intention was to hear her explain why she thought it was a good idea to invite someone who was living in sexual immorality to be a counselor to the young people of the camp. For those of you who do not know me, I do not raise my voice and I had spent considerable time in prayer before this conversation. I wanted to be equipped with God's word in my heart and know that I was not coming at her with a prideful spirit.

I asked the Director to read 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 and then to explain in light of God's word, why she did what she did.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 New King James Version (NKJV)
9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore "put away from yourselves the evil person."

She chose not to speak about what the Bible said but instead, pulled a poetry book out and read a poem about love. It was a secular poem and so it wasn't speaking of God's love, just love in general. I asked her if it was wrong for people to live together outside of marriage and she would not respond. I then asked her if there was anything wrong with what she had done and she said no. On that point, her Field Director also did not think there was anything inappropriate about having a woman who was living with her boyfriend being a counselor.

It was clear to me that neither one was going to concede to an error in judgement. I didn't really expect they would but in order to obey, you can't let the fear of rejection deter you from doing what is right and I believe it was right to question their decision. That decision played a huge role at camp that summer. I had kids asking me about the counselor who was living with her boyfriend. They wanted to know if it was true that the person she was living with was a former camper. These are conversations I did not wish to have with any kid at any time. It should never have happened. The meeting with the Director and Field Director did not go as well as I had hoped because there were no guarantees that a similar situation would not occur in the future.

I admit it was difficult to continue at camp the following year. Even now, I question why I continued but then I reflect on the sense that God was leading me to be there. I had actually stopped inviting kids to the camp two years prior when two of the campers were having sex at Senior Camp but the Director refused to send them home. It also concerned me that the Director divulged personal details about the campers' parents. I stopped attending staff meetings because these details were being shared as "prayer requests". I told her that I did not need to hear anything about the sex lives of the parents in order to minister to the kids. If the kids had anything to share, they could tell me what they wanted, however this practice continued.

In what was to be my last year at camp, the Director called for an end to evening devotions on the grounds that the kids were hearing too much about the Bible and Jesus. Dorm devotions are just before bedtime where we as counselors would take turns going through a short passage of Scripture, having discussion and closing in prayer. It was the only time of the day where you could really say the kids were encouraged to be interactive. It was important to me that we did not forsake that time together. I genuinely believe God used that time through the years to draw kids closer to the Lord and to each other.

Another noteworthy aspect of this past year was being told that the reason the Director wanted to go through the camp photos on this site was not to protect anyone's modesty as she had previously claimed. Instead, she said it was to conceal the kids who were violating the Camp Board dress code. I said that rather than try to conceal the truth, it would be better to uphold the dress code. She did not agree. The Director also accused the Camp Board of being dishonest, sexist and warped in their beliefs. She never liked the idea that they might discover she was disregarding their policies. Even at times when I would point out that several of the girls were not dressed appropriately, she did not object. It was only when there was a chance of being caught that she took any action. That action consisted of telling the counselors to hide the girls when a crew came to cut the grass.

I could certainly offer additional examples but I think there is enough material listed here to illustrate my concerns. I believe that new leadership at the Director and Field Director level is required. The counseling staff should also be thoroughly reviewed for spiritual integrity. As far as the organization as a whole, I do not know what could be done with them. One would hope that they would recognize that the camp needs help but so far that remains unclear.

I will dearly miss looking forward to camp each year. As the kids frequently commented, I was the oldest camper there. Apart from some of my interactions with the leadership, I had a great time. I've also had a great time working on this website. It's been a lot of work but most anything that is worthwhile takes effort.

I've always thought that camp was a wonderful place with lots of potential to reach kids for Christ and for building up young believers. It's amazing how little time it takes to unravel the good things about camp. I remember a couple of years ago that a youth group came down from a church in Otley. They had a youth pastor who was extremely discerning and after only a couple of days he articulated the same problems with the camp I had seen. It was encouraging that I wasn't the only person seeing what I was seeing. He was not being harsh any more than I am. We both care a lot for the salvation of the kids and just want to see camp leadership with a vision for reaching the lost and making disciples. I had the chance to chat with him about nine months after camp. He explained that he was not ever planning to bring his youth group back to Camp because it took six months for the kids to unlearn the poor things they had learned while at camp. Doesn't that just break your heart when you hear things like that?

Well...the ball is in your court. I will post the names of other camps as they come to me. I wish you the very best in your decision on a camp and pray that you will be guided by the Lord to send your children wherever they can meet Jesus and learn to walk in the Lord.

Blessings in Christ,

Web Servant

E-mail: WebServant@WinsomeBibleCamp.org